Category Archives: verse

Kensington, Philadelphia

They stutter and creep along filth-ridden streets, 
tattered sleeves hiding the blood as it seeps,
far from the arms of mothers who weep.

Turn away, 
cover your eyes, 
blind to the shame of the crimes you perceive
as you hurry away from the flesh-eating streets.

They wade through the scud of society's greed,  
shuffling their feet, hungry for succour 
then numbed by fulfilment of lethal need.

Turn away
pretend you don't see,
blind to the shame of the streets of pain
or blaming the victim for all our mistakes.  

They're slipping through cracks between fleshly paving;
our brothers and sisters struggle and bleed 
and end on those streets.
Who finds the dead and where are they buried?
Do we really not notice? 
How can we not care?
How can we not weep as they slip between 
the cracks created from selfish greed.

Few of us focus and few of us see
that there but for fortune or luck of the genes 
go him and her and you and me.
There but for fortune  
go we.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Obscure Miracles

 Morning brings a fragile visitation: 
 the hint of a poem whose silken threads
 ebb and flow,
 playing hide-and-seek with my mind, 
 gradually reproducing into compatible flecks 
 which swim like dust motes 
 on a sunny day.
 
 Words and phrases  
 float through an open window: tender gifts 
 bestowed by an unknown source;  
 obscure miracles which mingle with the mix,
 transforming raw verse till it fits, 
 displays a hint of beauty, 
 and on occasion, blooms 
 with exhumed truth. 

©Jane Paterson Basil

Poor Old Santa

Written for Word Of The Day Challenge: Reflect

With apologies to the oft-disputed author of ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas

 It's a dim little Christmas we're having this year,
 stranded from family and friends we hold dear.
 Factions are splattered all over the place,  
 there is fear and denial, ragr and bad grace.
 World leaders sit haggard on prickly fence
 while scientists struggle to make them see sense.
 Conspiracy geeks prittle predictable prattle
 and the papers continue to treat us like cattle.
 Mother is shielding and father is fraught
 by the dreadful cost of the gifts that he bought.
 Business is failing, his debts are a-growing,
 since Covid put paid to the seeds he was sowing.
 His children are sleeping in confident bliss
 faithfully dreaming of generous gifts.
 Santa has packed up his sleigh with great care,
 he's padlocked his storehouse and fed his reindeer.
 He's flying up high on his usual rounds;
 although visits are tricky, he won't let us down.
 Since rulings preclude him from entering chimneys
 he drops down the presents and flies away nimbly,
 with a groan in his throat and a tear in his eye;
 he'd be glad of a drink or a lovely mince pie,
 to fill his fat belly and give his heart ease -
 but he cannot risk catching a nasty disease.
 As he smoothly directs his crew through the air,
 he's pleased to be giving but filled with despair.
 He reflects that it's been a difficult year:
 There's lots of goodwill, but damn little cheer.   

©Jane Paterson Basil

Reprimand

You can't beat addiction by beating the addict;
it will hitch up their need to reach for a fix.
Shame on your actions,
you showed no compassion.
You oppressed and tormented and drove her to drink,
then you slammed her and thrashed her, but she didn't sink.
Throughout your life and long after you died
her beautiful spirit and body survived.

 
 
 
©Jane Paterson Basil 

Hermaphrodite

terriblepoetry_warning

I seem to be a little out of sync. this week. Instead of composing a poem for this week’s Terrible Poetry Contest, I got confused and came up with a response one posted by Chelsea way back in July. Rather than apologise, I’ll blame my daughter’s impending motherhood. Her labour is set to be induced, and I’m all over the place.

Requirements for The Terrible Poetry Contest Week 34 (tut-tut! it’s now week 48).

  1. Topic: Animals and their pregnancy.
    Did you know the African Bush Elephant carries …well, an elephant for 22 months? That a male seahorse carries the babies (up to 1,500!)? Or that female Komodo Dragons can impregnate themselves without a male through a process called parthenogenesis?
    Did you know you’re going to write a poem about it?
  2. Just to make it more fun, I’d like the Length to be about Hallmark Valentine’s Day card-sized. Bonus points if you actually write it like a Hallmark Valentine’s Day card.
  3. Rhyme? It’s up to you.
  4. Mostly, just make it terrible. Whilst composing your note of affection, a pregnant elephant all the way across the ocean needs to raise its head from the water hole toilet and vow to spend its next 21 months making its way to your house…
  5. do know where babies come from; but if National Geographic can keep things clinical, I think our usual PG rating will suffice.

Additional a very wise person has asked if I would include the following word.

antediluvian

HERMAPHRODITE (a verse both tardy and terrible) 

The slime you ooze like TB spit
Incites desire; I cherish it.
Our sticky union filled my heart,
But we unglued and had to part.
Our antediluvian rhapsody
Meant almost all the world to me,
But should you once more be my guest
Please pardon me if I suggest
You lay the eggs while I retire
To dream of how you stoked my fire.
I love you, slug, but beg you see
How playing mother tested me.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Existential Angst

baby-25

My thirst: 

When did it surface?
Is it right to lay the blame
on a fly in my DNA, a crack in the egg,
a badly-placed step in the dance of the sperm?
Did it seep in while I swam in neo-natal simplicity?
Is it lack or a perverse surplus; missing mineral or toxic germ,
or is it quickening depletion?

Can’t slake my thirst.

Oozing through a bruising birth canal,
keening for unseen  freedom, did I forget to collect
my nourishing any-time drinks?

I started to burst

Lying naked at the wide end of space,
thin flesh tingling with echoes, did I relish or regret
my clamorous exit from the womb?

while mother nursed

My mouth spelled an O
around a milky breast, my ready tongue reached to feed –
did not the food fulfil my need?

and dreams were rehearsed

When shadows
ignored each command, did they steal
my core of stability?

and knowledge reversed

When my expanding brain saw
that the world was not me, and I was not the world
did abandonment hurt?

and faith was submersed

When young fingers
plucked springtime flowers that died,
did I mourn mortality?

and pain interspersed

When oak trees
offered me gifts that I could not reach,
did the distance scrape me?

and thunderclouds cursed.

When I tried,
yet failed to describe my existential angst,
did I itch to die?

Flew head-first

When a slick film
thickened over whimpering blood – a second skin to protect me,
did it block entry to the piece which was missing?

for the limits of verse.

How can it be
that even as I embrace life, my lungs
would like to cease breathing?

Still the ache of thirst;

can’t slake my thirst.

~~~

©Jane Paterson Basil

Words

words-picture1

Words which clamber for birth,
eager to cling to the page,
words which would raise to self-worth
modestly seeking a place.
Words which admit, words which deny,
words deftly-chosen, words misapplied.
Dominatrix words which try
to overpower a subtle punchline.

Words which have something to say,
each syllable tuned in its own way,
conciliating or armed for the fray,
screaming surprise or mumbling cliché.

Words that edge to the ideal mate;
working their way towards standing up straight,
shuffling their way into ship-shape phrases
like uneasy conscripts with falsified ages.

Words scrubbed out and aptly replaced,
jackets buttoned and shoes tightly laced,
a tidy battalion of lines and stanzas;
meter supplanting the weapons of battle,
bragging the spit and polish of rhyme,
till all might concur that the verse is sublime,
the meter is perfect, the message shines.

.

Yet words,
for all their courageous claims
of muscle, weight and girth,
often wither and fade
into an insipid blur

.

Written for Word of the Day Challenge: Insipid

©Jane Paterson Basil

Mirror, Mirror…

This Week, Calen again invites us to revisit her sandbox. She asks:

“You find yourself in a quiet room looking at your reflection in this beautiful old mirror. What do you see? Is there anything in particular you like about yourself? Is there anything you don’t like? Tell us about it.”

Here is my response:

I’m not bad for my age, though my skin’s become saggy,
the creases have deepened, my eyes got more baggy,
while my skin is quite clear and and my hair is okay –
it’s pleasing to see that there’s not too much grey.

But just two little details are getting me down;
when my face is relaxed, I’m wearing a frown
and I’ve suddenly noticed that each time I smile,
my reflection glares back with a vague hint of bile.

As I gaze at my image I realise
either me or the mirror is telling lies.

.

Written for Calen’s Sandbox Challenge – Exercise 1, which offers you a fun way to get to know yourself .

©Jane Paterson Basil

Lord Backsivore’s Letter #a poem

Note: Backsivore, or Backsie Fore, is a word (or phrase) from the Devon dialect. It means back-to-front.

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The sun shines bright with a matt-black glow
each late-night morning in Backsivore.
While stars ask each other which way to go,
thrilled nihilists speak of a meaningful core

Babies rise late to starve screaming mothers
before peeling toast from their jam.
The vegans grab guns and hunt for  plump plovers
while Beefeaters gobble up ham,

and the man in the moon puts on her dress
to strum on an an unstrung guitar,
and the song unsung is an ungarbled mess
about unspoken secrets repeated afar.

In the deep-forest city of Backsivore,
each week ends before it begins,
months are short and years are shorter
and decades are the length of two pins.

Centuries remain an untrodden track,
since there’s no known way to measure
the length of elastic componants so slack,
so none of the sums add together.

In Backsivore the losers win prizes,
and petite women wear a large sack
while L and XL are the smallest of sizes,
and a shirt buttons up at the back.

Every brave truth is a cowardly lie
and all bitter lies are sweet facts.
The curtain twitcher is no kind of spy
and the sadists disperse kindly acts.

I’m quite convinced that I’d never would guess
that I’ve said too much, and much less is more,
I hope this is useful, no more and no less…
Coldest Regards
from Lord Backsivore.

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©Jane Paterson Basil